“Warnie – suited Warne and made him someone companionable for us who could not get in touch with him or watch him live in action. He became that boy for the world, who is reckless, but still gentle and playful, flawed and still charismatic, a genius in action, but still, the boy next door always coming close to say Hi and run to the field for doing things that the ordinary could only think of. Warnie flirted with unpredictability and unpredictability has always been his closest mate since that Colombo epic in 1992.”

 

They say that the first impression is the best impression – but how many times this school of thought has been proved wrong? I think, for more than a million times, the champions in real life have established the truth, the first impression hardly matters – but the result of hard work outshines everyone. Whereas, mental strength separates the ultimate best from the rest. Life is life – it is unpredictable and life gifts characters, who flirts with unpredictability – for the critics they might be just entertainers, but for the keen followers of the game – they are the heroes, the demi-gods.

In the third Test at Sydney, Australia included a spinner who never looked like a cricketer, rather a 90s kid who would find all the peace in a burger, ice cream and beer. He kept on bowling against the top Indian batters and earned just a single wicket for 150 runs. After such a terrible debut – surely, the fella’s career was all over.

After a dismal World Cup campaign at home – Australia toured Sri Lanka and in the first Test at Colombo, a defeat was on the cards until that tubby spinner showed up again.

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In the final session, Sri Lanka were cruising and in a crunch moment, Aravinda de Silva ran down the pitch and tried to hit Craig McDermott over the top. Allan Border took a stunning catch, running backwards from mid-on, to dismiss Aravinda and the Test began to spin with the tubby spinner turning things around.

Australia needed six wickets and stop Sri Lanka from achieving 30-od runs.

Border introduced Shane Warne, who had a strike close to two hundred and just one wicket under his belt. Warne was nervous – but realized, he could be more in a chicky spell.

“The Sri Lankans had taken to Shane’s new-look bowling. With them needing 30-odd to win, still four wickets in hand, I threw the ball to Warnie. It was a huge gamble. He looked a little shocked to get the ball but said he was ready for the job. We won a Test we shouldn’t have and the Warne legend was born,” said Allan Border.

“We needed four wickets and they needed less than 30 to win. I bowled a maiden first up. They were landing where I wanted them to land. Moie [Matthews] took a wicket next over and I started thinking we were in with a chance. Then next over I took a wicket – my first for the match. Deano ran over and said, “Well done, mate. You’re only averaging 160 now.” I tried to laugh, but couldn’t. I was too nervous. Next up Moie bowled a good over and I took another wicket in my next. “Now you only average 80, Warnie,” Deano said. By this stage we needed one wicket to win and they still needed 25 runs. Then came another two boundaries off Mo and things were very tight,” said Warne.

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“If that Test had been on television in Australia, it would be remembered as one of the great matches of all time. Those three wickets changed things for me.”

Yes, indeed, it changed the career of a man, who was not taking cricket seriously but was wasting time on a life that was not meant for him – Warne was born to revive the lost art in Australia and become the best of the best.

Australia lost the Frank Worrell Trophy at home with Warne turning the game in favour of Australia in Melbourne, but his impact was missed in Adelaide.

Border introduced him in the Ashes 1993 and at Manchester, Warne would gradually become our Warnie.

When Merv Hughes induced the edge off Mike Atherton, it was Smith who was supposed to walk out. But the curious bathroom blooper ensured that the stocky, bearded frame of Mike Gatting had to come trotting in to join captain Graham Gooch with the score reading 71 for 1.

Border tossed the ball to Warne.

It was the 28th over of the innings and England looked steady at 80 for 1 in response to 289. The Old Trafford strip was responsive to spin. Peter Such had captured six first-innings wickets with his off-breaks. And the world waited to see what miracles Warne would be able to work on this pitch.

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In the tour games, he had picked up handy wickets against Surrey, Leicestershire and Somerset, but had been walloped by Graeme Hick and the others of Worcestershire – for the experts, he was still not prepared for five-day matches despite bowling fairly well against West Indies and New Zealand.

After setting the right field, Warne ambled in, half walk and half trot, the right arm went round and after completing the circle, the ball was tossed much-wider towards leg – the ball kissed the turf and turned viciously leaving Gatting no chance to get into his position and expose his offstump – the ball moved fast towards off and disturbed the bails.

The on-field umpire Dickie Bird could not believe it.

Gatting still could not believe it.

Neither the television experts could believe what happened.

But by that time a legend was born and Ian Healy’s all those exhalations of “Bowled Warnie” filtered through the pitch microphones made him our Warnie!

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Warnie – suited Warne and made him someone companionable for us who could not get in touch with him or watch him live in action. He became that boy for the world, who is reckless, but still gentle and playful, flawed and still charismatic, a genius in action, but still, the boy next door always coming close to say Hi and run to the field for doing things that the ordinary could only think of. Warnie flirted with unpredictability and unpredictability has always been his closest mate since that Colombo epic in 1992.

Warnie celebrated life and the cricket pitch was his stage. He took us with him to celebrate. Each of his outrageous spells of spin bowling was greeted warmly by his fans and oppositions because he had been the love of the people and despite committing blunders, the genius of the man and candidness always kept him ticking in everyone’s heart.

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Warnie, our Warnie and the memories of his staggering works with the ball on his hand, would give us joy till we leave this planet once and for all!

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